PSU Professor Straps GPS Units on Bike Commuters to Study Bike Habits

Jennifer Dill, an Associate Professor in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies (PSU), strapped GPS units to 164 bike commuters to study ride behavior for seven days between April and November of 2007. Collectively, the riders took over 1,700 trips. After studying the data, Dill has found that “bike infrastructure” such as bike lanes, bike routes, and so on really does encourage people to get out of their cars and steer bikes away from busy thoroughfares that aren’t designed to accommodate them.

The Portland Tribune covers Dill’s finding in an October 2008 article located here. The article notes that

“although only 8 percent of city streets are equipped with any kind of bike infrastructure, 51 percent of trips were taken on them. To Dill, this means that most riders are seeking out such routes, even if they are not the shortest.”

The article continues with the following finding from Dill’s research:

“…Most regular bicyclists are young men. This means that if the city wants to substantially increase the number of people riding bikes on a regular basis, it needs to reach out to young women and older people. And, Dill said, that is what public spending on bike infrastrcture can accomplish, as she herself demonstrates.”

Prof. Dill participated in a congressional briefing in Washington DC sponsored by the Congressional Bike Caucus and the Active Living Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Biking Your Way to a Healthier Community in May of 2008. Her work is partially funded by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium.

One comment

  1. It’s fantastic that people are doing this kind of research! I’m a little disappointed that between April and November, the average participant went on ten bike rides. But who knows how the average may have been skewed…

    I do wonder about one conclusion, though: that most cycling occurs on the rare set of roads that have bike lanes, which means that these lanes cause people to bike. Even when this means a longer route. Could it be that people go more miles over flat ground to avoid climbing hills? It seems like bikes are as likely as cars to take “main” roads – not fast boulevards, but also not dead ends.

    I ride about 200 miles a month in Seattle, and there are a lot of reasons I’ll take a particular route … but at least at a conscious level, bike lanes aren’t among them. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll take a particular road because it “feels safer,” which could mean I’m choosing a street with a bike lane, but not thinking of it in those exact terms. So take my comment with a grain of salt, I guess…

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